ST. CHARLES – Ron Skubisz shared many golf conversations with Jim Wheeler over the years, and several of them left Skubisz with a wistful feeling.
At the time, Skubisz was general manager and director of golf at St. Andrews Golf Course in West Chicago, where he felt somewhat confined in a role he described as “almost corporate.” Wheeler, meanwhile, remained passionate about his role as golf pro at Pottawatomie Golf Course in St. Charles, where he worked long hours but maintained a more hands-on involvement with the sport itself.
Now that Skubisz has taken over at Pottawatomie for the recently retired Wheeler, there is no more need for envy.
“He and I always talked about what he did and I talked to him about what I did, and he absolutely did not want to do what I did because he truly enjoyed doing what he did,” Skubisz said. “That probably eventually wore on me a little bit to where I said ‘This is a good opportunity.’ ”
Skubisz officially started March 1 at Pottawatomie, which opened for the season on Monday. He looks forward to devoting more of his time to one-on-one interaction with golfers and nuts-and-bolts golf duties such as club-fitting, a welcome change of pace after 23 years in management at St. Andrews.
The 55-year-old Skubisz, who also has worked at Fresh Meadow Golf Club in Hillside and Glenwoodie Golf Course in Glenwood, has long been familiar with Pottawatomie from the high school golf circuit – he has a son and a daughter who golfed at Bartlett, and several of their meets took place at Pottawatomie.
Now that he’s around full time, Skubisz has gained a deeper appreciation for how cherished the nationally recognized, nine-hole course is around the area.
“My impression that I’ve gotten since I’ve been here is how much the people who play here love this place,” Skubisz said. “It is more than a golf course. It’s in a way a kind of home or tradition. It’s hard to put into words, but there is a fondness for this place that is somewhat surprising in this day and age.”
Skubisz attributes Pottawatomie’s warm reputation to its emphasis on junior golf, accessibility to golfers of varying skill levels and the continuity under Wheeler, who spent 31 years as Pottawatomie’s golf pro.
Wheeler, who will offer lessons at Mill Creek Golf Course, had a loyal following at Pottawatomie, and Skubisz said he has no intentions of making substantial changes around the course until taking time to acclimate to his new environs.
He had the benefit of conversations with Wheeler during the transition, and can still turn to assistant golf pro Bill Ogiego, a 10-year Pottawatomie veteran, for institutional knowledge on a daily basis. Course superintendent Denise Gillett-Parchert also remains on board.
Ogiego thinks Skubisz’s experience and fresh perspective will serve Pottawatomie well.
“We’ve gone back-and-forth, literally every single day, him asking me ‘What have you done, how have you done this?’ and me going to him ‘How would you like to do this?’ ” Ogiego said. “It’s every 10 minutes or something like that. But it’s new eyes here is what it is.”
Wheeler long nurtured a popular series of annual tournaments, separate events for juniors, men, women and seniors. Skubisz, who has moved to St. Charles, likes that template, and aims to build upon those offerings, likely including some type of fall scramble.
“I think we have a strong tournament schedule here but everything is more or less competitive events,” Skubisz said. “There’s a winner, or a flight winner, or whatever it is. I’d like to not change, but add to and create some events that are simply for fun.”
After tiring of a work atmosphere that was not fun enough for his liking, Skubisz is hopeful of contributing to the good times at Pottawatomie.
“I just want everybody who comes here to want to come back, and if we do that, we’re doing our job,” Skubisz said.